Socialist Worker

Sellafield construction workers begin wildcat strike

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2470

Sellafield nuclear plant, where construction workers have begun an unofficial walkout

Sellafield nuclear plant, where construction workers have begun an unofficial walkout (Pic: Dafydd Waters on Flickr)


Construction workers have turned a three hour stoppage into a three day unofficial strike at Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria.

The spark was "heavy handed" policing at a strike as part of an ongoing health and safety dispute. The workers are also demanding that the union reps have proper facilities.

Workers at 14 different sub-contractors are involved in the dispute. This includes those from Focus Scaffolding, PPS Electrical, Hertel, Balfour Beatty, Doosan Babcock and MW Hargreaves

Workers from the firms took part in official picketing action between 5.30am and 9am yesterday, Wednesday, before a number of workers walked out in unofficial strike action that afternoon.

The workers who left the site are out until next Monday. They point out there are a number of small disputes that are accumulating to the current battle.

A further three hour strike is planned for next Wednesday followed by a full-day action on September 23.

The workers are in the Unite union.

Aggresive

Steve Gibbons, a Unite official, said the walk-out decision was due to the “aggressive stance” taken towards picketing strikers yesterday by Cumbria Police.

He added, “The picketers are legally entitled to be there, and the police opened an extra gate at Sellafield to deliberately filter motorists away from them.

"The picketers conducted themselves in an appropriate manner but a number were spoken to aggressively by the police and were generally treated badly.”

Unite shop-stewards will meet on to decide what future action will be taken.

The long-standing row centres on contractors’ health and safety concerns. They are asking for a full-time union convenor on site and their own health and safety committee.

Workers at a number of other construction sites were discussing joining the action in solidarity.


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